See to it that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your body is full of light and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp is upon you.
I spent this summer having eye surgery. I did not get much writing done because my eyes got tired very easily. However, I never lost the ability to see well enough to read music and play piano except for the actual recovery time. For you see, I had developed a cataract in my right eye so thick and opaque light was no longer able to get into the eye. As soon as that was removed, and even before the eye healed, the amount of light that was suddenly flowing through the eye nearly restored my vision to my mid twenty’s level.
I began to have a new idea about the ‘light’ scriptures. This particular one talks about our whole life being lit if Christ’s light is in our life. Another scripture speaks of the eyes being the source of light for the whole body, referring to our soul being lit with Christ’s light results in our whole life being filled with light.
My doctor promised color would come alive again, and indeed it has. “Great vision is ahead for you!” I hardly believed him. But I could begin to believe as the light streaming into my eye for the first time in years became tolerable and vision cleared through healing. Most of that had happened even before I had surgery on the second eye.
The lessons God has reminded me of start with the fact of my unawareness of what was happening. Quite a while ago, I was informed that cataracts were beginning to form, but it would be decades before I would even know they were there. It has not been decades, but even at that I could not tell I was losing my awareness of bright colors. Just in the last two years have I gotten worried about my vision. Still I could not believe a cataract of such severe nature snuck up on me.
And the faith lesson is obvious. We drift away from God, really quite unaware our spiritual awareness has dimmed. Then something happens and we turn, hands out and blindly feel for God. Darkness has crept into our lives as we compromise with the darkness around us. What that looks like for each of us is different. Sometimes we have sunken so low we can no longer believe change is possible. We can’t get a grip on God’s love, presence, and constant forgiving grace. Sometimes we even quit believing.
The light of life is gone.
I had not realized how tentative my life had become as I automatically adjusted to limitations. I no longer enjoyed driving and getting out by myself. I, unthinking, turned down opportunities to play piano because confidence faltered. I assumed it was all stress and the need for rest as my life’s situation had changed. That was partly true, but now I see, I just could not read music fast enough to keep up. God did use that to force me to get very much-needed rest, but once I could see better, confidence returned.
And, as we put out blind hands and encounter God, life slowly returns. Then, one day, full life is again possible. Christ’s light comes back into our souls, and once again we have light to shine onto those around us who look to us for illumination.
Of course, the answer to that is always be aware of and take care of things as they come into our lives. I had indeed taken steps to keep cataract development slow. I addressed the sugar thing that was heading toward diabetes and other physical things that are known to foster eye problems, yet I wasn’t quick enough. And as humans, we get sidetracked, by even good things, so easily. May God help us to identify those distractions as they are beginning to get the upper hand instead of waiting until we have lost the light from our spiritual eyes.
Jude 1: 9-10
9But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct— as irrational animals do— will destroy them.
I DON’T GET IT
In seminary my husband had a teacher who told them while they were preaching not to refer to obscure references as illustrations because they would lose the congregation’s understanding. This scripture is a perfect illustration. No one knows what Jude is referring to. No where in the Old Testament is Michael recorded arguing with the devil over the fate if Moses’ body. There are some traditions advanced scholars have flushed out such as God hid Moses’ body to keep it from becoming an idol, but even those ideas are scarce.
We understand Jude Is making a contrast. Even Michael when doing something as important as protecting the great Moses’ body did not stoop to slander. But we feel left out because we do know about the incident to which he refers.
Now we know how many people feel when we speak “Christian -eeze.” We understand what we mean. Perhaps people of our own denomination and church understand what we mean, but the further we get away from the church the less people know the illustrations.
To me this passage is a challenge to study and understand what the terms and illustrations (examples or references) we use originally meant so I can reword them before I use them outside the church.
Our traditions are rich. We don’t have to abandon them. But as society around us grows more secular, we will have find new ways to express our faith so we remain Christ’s representatives today, not merely yesterday’s symbols. And we need to teach people the traditions, what they mean. We need to keep teaching what the symbols mean. We need to teach the Old Testament to understand how we can expect God to relate to us today by seeing how he related to them. We cannot assume even our own children understand. These days life changes radically from one generation to the next. We all must teach by what we say and what we are.
God does not change. The way he relates to us, his love for us, his understanding of us will not ever change. I relax in he presence as I become convinced of that, but the way that relationship looks changes from society to society and generation to generation. We need not be frightened of that.
I had taken a year off to work part time because both of us were working full time.
I explored part-time work.
Thought I might contract with a funeral home in OKC.
Everyone was set. They needed no one.
Plan set aside.
Loierrty-years (Hand covering mouth so you won’t know how many) later
God handed me the opportunity to do that very thing.
I’ve just finished the one book I had to write (People of Faith in a Changing World) based on my journals
I’ve gotten health problems solved
And God took care of another dream – to regularly use my piano playing professionally.
I told someone just when I face reality and say to myself, “This is it. What is here is what I will be content with.”
God comes along and says, “I’m not done yet.”
“I put this idea in your head a long time ago so when the opportunity came,
You would be ready to accept.”
Same thing happened when my husband had the opportunity to
Move from the pastorate into chaplaincy.
It tells me God is a living, active spirit in my world.
It tells me God doesn’t play with my life.
It tells me God is the author of my dreams as well as gives me abilities,
And just because the dream doesn’t happen now, doesn’t mean they never will.
It tells me I will always have something to contribute
No matter what else changes in life.
I rejoice as I realize God can and will continue to use me.
I am here, God, take who I am
The abilities you have given me,
For the comfort of others.
May I never tire of service,
May I always rejoice in serving.
Review People of Faith in a Changing World
By David Ramous
I love devotionals (hence why I’m writing a whole series of them). A good devotional is like ahealthy snack The author has to really understand what they want to say and then communicate the truth in a short, digestible means – one that is also powerful and true.
This book does that extremely well.
Now, this book is not a short one. It’s300+ pages with literally hundreds of devotions ranging across all of Scripture. The author writes clearly, and I felt recharges as I brought this book with me on my recent trip to Georgia.
The book contains both honesty and variety. I never got bored, and there was a nice mix of stories, poetry, deep theology and much more.
Anyone looking for a large anthology of devotions should definitely check this book out.
Thank you to David Ramos for the kind words. I have been following David’s blog and he has written a book of devotionals called Climbing with Abraham. I have ordered it and read most of it. See a review on my page ‘Book I read’. It is worth your time.
I Corinthians 13:10
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love
Squeezed between faith and charity is that little word, hope.
I have come to believe the shape of the world today is because so many people no longer have hope. People (with the exception of those who kill to obtain a place in heaven) who fall into addiction and are incited into violence because they think that’s all there is. There is no future, and they might as well as live for today’s pleasures. And then there’s the anger that grows into hate that becomes disdain for society and life. I wonder if it starts with people rebelling against feeling hopeless and helpless.
I do understand in this world of complexities, that might be just bit simple. But it holds up in a lot of instances. Many insightful people in the secular world are looking for ways to give these disenfranchised young people hope so they can find their way out of their present nothingness.
That life can be different
That I don’t have to repeat the mistakes of my parents.
That I can be a person of consequence.
That I might be lovable and loved.
That I might make a difference because of being here.
When that hope is pinned upon help from governmental agencies, education, important people I know, family, money, marriage or career, hopes can get smashed very quickly. Many people despair, thinking life cannot be different. Help can be found in all the agencies we have in place, and people’s lives have been changed by them.
But even after we have received the help we need, there still are times of strong support and times when everything seems to desert us at once. Where is our hope when the hard times return?
My hope is in the Lord.
But stronger words never spoken.
Because I have prayed and asked for guidance and wisdom, I have hope:
That I can make wise decisions
About where I put myself
The people I let influence me
The career I follow
The way I spend money
The choice of spouse I make,
How I relate to people around me.
All those things affect the way I end up living my life and the benefits I reap because God makes me into a better person. And when I fail, I find forgiveness and hope that I can start again.
God doesn’t run out of his funds of love or strength or grace or opportunities like people, careers or agencies we put our hope in run short of resources. It is the steadfastness, the all powerfulness, the love that we place our hope in.
And because God never fails, our hope never wavers.
So I Pray: God of hope, give me the wisdom to live my life in a way that reflects the hope I have placed in you. Help me be a representative of what hope can give people the courage to try. By my example, help people understand that in God’s hope there is the possibility of a different life.
As I am writing a 365 day devotional book, I come across some things that signaled a change in my way of thinking. At a time I was angry with God, I discovered I could yell at God and he would not throw me out. That was very freeing. The other thing I discovered at the same time was I could be angry at God, but at the same time realize he is my only place to go for a help. It was odd, but was wonderful. This is from several years back….but I hope it blesses you. Jo Bower
Following Jeremiah’s Tradition
At one time my heart was sad
and my spirit was bitter.
22 I didn’t have any sense. I didn’t know anything.
I acted like a wild animal toward you.
23 But I am always with you.
You hold me by my right hand.
24 You give me wise advice to guide me.
And when I die, you will take me away
into the glory of heaven.
25 I don’t have anyone in heaven but you.
I don’t want anything on earth besides you.
26 My body and my heart may grow weak.
God, you give strength to my heart.
You are everything I will ever need.
I cry to my Lord: You have shown me your hand. But not the fingers of your blessed caress. I feel the backside of your hand. And it knocked me down. The opportunity you led me to believe you sent which caused great joy in myself – and all I know as we praised your name – has collapsed. And you let it collapse.
Through all my prayers and hope and gratitude 0f how far you’d brought me, you still let it collapse. So be it. But it’s not just all right. I’m not skipping over this with blithe remarks about God’s will be done or it’s fine. You did it And I’m deeply angry with you. What would it have hurt? Just what did I do so wrong? Yet, hope sneaks back almost undetectable. Then it rushes to the surface. And I resist it. Hope has just led to heartbreak.
Yet I can’t help it. It has far more resiliency than ever imagined. Why can’t it stay until I’m ready to embrace it? I’m not yet deserted. God, you are still with me. It is from that indisputable fact that my hope finds its origin.
Still I hesitate. Questions remain. Was it an exercise of futility fed by my need to be someone? Did I run ahead of you? Am I to pursue the dream, and so, in what direction?
Obviously positive thinking and belief alone does not always bring reality to its knees. It has brought me to mine. So much for motivational speakers. I can’t help but feel the dream is not dead, Perhaps just postponed. But before I take it up again, you will have to bring me to full knowledge of your hope.
But strangely, I believe all these things. I’m just fearful of letting go again. Fearful of letting hope poke its head from under the covers I tossed over it.
God, on a positive note, I have been released from a total obsession that had begun to rule my life. I’m not sure what the obsession was, 0r if it was helpful or harmful. But something was pressing down on me. Was it that I was being driven to work on one activity to the exclusion of joy coming from other activities? Was it the fear of failure, of acceptance and criticism, or the fear of success? Whatever it was, I thank you for deliverance.
I was down so far only you could rescue me. Don’t let me fall back into that pit. Help me pick up, follow the opportunities you do send . . . and know what direction you direct now. Thank you for not leaving me in my time of anger.
I will again praise your name, in a different way than before, but I will praise you. You enabled my survival.
Come, you who have written off Christmas
As a useless commercial, greedy,
Networking through-giving-the-right-gift-to-the-right person,
And raking in all you can get celebration.
Come, you who weary of trying to please,
Or gain approval of the people who depend on you
And who you love with all your heart,
By providing the perfect holiday experience.
Come, you who refuse to celebrate because you believe
It’s the wrong time of the year,
Or merely the ancient believers’ redemption of an old pagan worship day
Was merely the early Christians’ effort to wrestle dominance from other belief systems.
Come, you who cannot see beyond the secular celebrations
Of Santa, elves, goodwill, and tender made for TV movies.
Who, when you have outgrown those things,
No longer find meaning in the celebration.
Come, discover the simple, uncomplicated,
Love motivated, God-initiated gift that began all this.
And as humans, we’ve turned it into madness as we, as usual,
Have gotten things backwards, and put the emphasis on the wrong things.
Come, return to the celebration
Of a loving Creator longing for a relationship with the people of his creation.
Of that same Spirit of power and might giving that most precious son
To humanity as the example of God, the Father’s, existance and scope of love.
Come to the celebration,
Not of the date, or of merely the traditions, or the giving and receiving,
Not merely the spirit of Christmastide’s goodwill,
But of the eternal love that prompted that first gift of a baby named Jesus.
So, come, put it all aside:
The studies that tells us what we’ve gotten wrong,
The disapproval of what the season has become,
And celebrate, with heart, mind, and spirit, the gift that changed the meaning of giving.
Acts 17:26-28 NIRV
From one man he made all the people of the world. Now they live all over the earth. He decided exactly when they should live. And he decided exactly where they should live. God did this so that people would seek him. Then perhaps they would reach out for him and find him. They would find him even though he is not far from any of us. ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ As some of your own poets have also said, ‘We are his children.’
- So again I prayed, desperately seeking God’s presence. And in today’s language that is the accepted language and thought pattern. It implies digging through, creating a path, tossing out distractions, and extreme, concentrated effort. So, I approach God that way – as if it is a painful, birth process.
In Acts 17, Paul lists what all God does just to get us to seek him. Somewhere in my reading I came across this idea:
Maybe seeking is not just my responsibility alone
What if I have taken on a responsibility
That is not totally mine to work out?
What if seeking is not such hard work?
What if seeking God is as easy as turning my face (attention) towards him?
And perhaps the desperate seeking could end when I realize God is seeking me with the same concern I am seeking him. Perhaps I don’t need to seek out the perfect meeting place, find the perfect attitude or create the perfect atmosphere.
Perhaps grace is not so much sought as much as it is applied.
Perhaps it’s not so much about desperately searching for God’s will
As it is learning to understand our gifts,
See the opening doors, and recognize opportunities presented
As invitations to fulfill God’s will.
Perhaps living a Christian life is about accepting Christ first,
Then spending our lives learning to see God at work.
Perhaps I do not grow because I do not see where God’s work needs my gifts.
So today I stopped working at seeking and turned my face towards God. And found God looking me straight in the eyes.
“Ah.” He gestured toward the waiting table laden with bread and drink.
“You’re here. Have a seat.
“What’s on your mind?
“Would you like a drink of living water?”
1 Kings 19:4-8 (NIV)
4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said.
“Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank.
Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
So the Great Elijah had this wonderful experience
With the burning altar when God sent the Fire down and burned everything
Including the Water he soaked the wood with to prove the power of God.
However, in proving God’s power, he made powerful enemies.
And he panicked and ran.
He ended up safe and provided for by angels,
But his spirit was broken.
“The glory days are over,” he says to himself.
“Here I am of use to no one.
I don’t have anyone to serve.
I am of no better than my ancestors who couldn’t remain faithful
To God for more than one generation at a time
Before falling back into sin.
So, God, just take me home.”
No one has to live very long,
No one who has a servant’s heart,
No performer or artist who has ever had a perfect performance or result,
No pastor who knows it is time to turn the congregation over to the next person God has prepared,
Who comes to a low point following the great times of the mountain-top experience,
Can deny they know exactly what Elijah felt in that cave.
“Things will never the same,”
Something deep inside insists,
“Or ever as good the emotional seat taunts.”
We don’t leave God, but we hide out.
In fact we often find God is supplying our needs during the process.
But we are scared the opportunity for service is gone.
The special lift, or heightened communication with God or community
Will never be experienced again.
“This is as good as it will ever get. It’s over. I’ve reached the peak of life.
God, just take me home now, or I am afraid I cannot ever serve you like that again.
And I will fail you, me, and the people I am supposed to be serving.”
This is not just a pity party.
This is the loss of confidence in our ability to reproduce this kind of experience ever again,
“I cannot conceive of things ever going anywhere but down from here time.
Life will never be this good again. And I have many years yet to live.”
And most of it really is true. Life will never be the same
After one of those periods of life… after a truly spectacularly mountain-top time of service,
Service may never again be so meaningful for quite some time.
Relationships may not be as rich.
God nurtures us while we flounder in uncertainty of what comes next.
And before we know something sparks that servant’ s heart.
We find a kind of perverse joy in the mundane…..
As a musician knows the joy of just practicing returns,
We experience life in normal valley as good.
Perhaps the fire on the mountain experiences will never again be part of daily life.
But it is not over.
God is, as he always was, still there – working, prompting, going before us, clearing the way
For the different, new – if not spectacular – thing he is guiding us to.
Quietly we follow.
Gently God leads.
We expect little.
God presence is often just enough.
And step by step we travel through the tunnel of transitions,
And unexpectedly emerge onto a whole new mountain place of life
Made possible by the journey that began when we thought nothing would ever be the same.
So, then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh – 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die: but if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are Children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs with Christ – if in fact we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified.
I John 3:1
3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
As we celebrate mothers one month and father’s day the next we often study the scriptures Paul writes about us being God’s children.
God is father, and adopts us into the community of the children of God, and joint heirs with Jesus. And if we can grasp that, it changes our approach to God and life. We use terms like Christian confidence and boldness in approaching God and life. And that is good.
We also speak of being like children in trusting implicitly, without reservations, in God’s love. And that is good.
I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, when I was around my parents I sometimes reverted to feeling like a child. And I think that is natural. But as I grew up, my relationship with them changed. And as an adult, the element of friendship entered. I still was their child, I still trusted them, loved them, cared deeply for them, but my maturity was reflected in the relationship.
As I read this scripture, I wondered if our relationship shouldn’t change as we mature as a Christian. And this is not how we normally like to think. We want to remain as youngsters in Christ. That simple trust. That totally true or totally untrue world we live in as a child. And that was good. We don’t want to think about our relationship. We just want to feel. And we set about our lives based on what makes us feel good.
We choose our church, our activities, and service according to what fits our needs to feel fulfilled. As lay people we tend not to ask God to show is where he wants us to serve. That is an adult this to do. Learning to love as God taught us…others come first.
As youngsters, our love is based on what parents do for us, and we gradually begin to understand love is the basis of their actions. We all have seen the conflicts that results when either the parent or child fail to have a healthy view of the love interaction. It is a sign of maturity when we begin to respect who our parents are and learn to love them for who they are.
But in all of this, we remain their children.
As a young person, we are first drawn to Christ because of the things he does for us. As we begin to mature in Christ, we learn to love God because of who God is.
But in all of this we remain God’s children. We just become God’s adult children. But the emphasis the relationship changes. It is no longer primarily about what God does for us. It becomes about the fellowship, the joys of life, and the courage to persevere. And we come to see God at work even when he doesn’t do things our way.
Obviously the child parent illustration breaks down at some point due to age, but no matter the dynamics, we still remain our parents’ children.
And we remain God’s children. While retaining the childlike trust and wonder at the depth of God’s love, we should become the adult Children of God.